Over the weekend, a Tampa Bay newspaper announced its selections for the best Buccaneers of all time. Linebacker Derrick Brooks headed the list. Other current Bucs in the top 20 were defensive end Simeon Rice and cornerback Ronde Barber.
The Bucs entered Saturday's Wild Card matchup with the NFL's top-ranked defense. And yet, it was the Redskins' ninth-ranked defense that produced more big plays, as two turnovers set up a pair of touchdowns.
Down the stretch, the Redskins' defense was instrumental in holding off a Bucs' rally, giving Washington a 17-10 win.
The victory sends Washington to Seattle for a Divisional Playoff game against the Seahawks next Saturday at Qwest Field. Game time is 4:30 p.m. ET.
Against Tampa Bay. defensive tackles Cornelius Griffin and Joe Salave'a consistently pushed into the Bucs' backfield, allowing linebackers LaVar Arrington, Marcus Washington and Lemar Marshall to make tackles and craft outstanding games.
"Because we were healthy up front, we really felt that we would have a presence in the pass rush with rushing four," assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said. "That helped our secondary, which was banged up a little bit when we started the game."
Arrington, Washington and Marshall combined for 32 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.
Arrington, in particular, looked like he's ready for next week's battle in Seattle. In his first post-season game, the six-year veteran picked off Chris Simms at the 8:54 mark of the first quarter. Arrington's theft set the tone for the defense and Washington's interception with 1:05 left helped wrap up the Redskins' 17-10 wild card win.
In addition to Arrington's early interception, the other turnover that swung the contest in the Redskins' favor came after Washington forced a Cadillac Williams fumble. The Redskin linebacker fumbled himself but safety Sean Taylor scooped up Washington's miscue and sprinted 51 yards to the end zone.
"In this defense, that's what your linebackers are supposed to do," Williams said. "It was nice to see them make those plays, but it was especially nice to see them make difference-making plays in the ballgame."
Griffin and Salave'a took the Bucs' interior offensive line by surprise in how they dominated the line of scrimmage and deflected three passes, two of which led to interceptions.
"I feel like they thought we couldn't beat them one-on-one, that all we could do was stop the run," Griffin said. "We took that as a challenge and we stuck together."
Salave'a suggested that the practice of getting his hands up to deflect passes has become second nature to him.
Added Salave'a: "We harped all offseason and this whole season about going through your progressions. Unconscious competence is the word: You do it without thinking."
The Redskins now can start thinking about ways to slow down the NFL's Most Valuable Player of 2005, Seattle running back Shaun Alexander. When the Redskins and Seahawks met at FedExField back on Oct. 2, the Redskins won 20-17 in overtime. Alexander had 20 carries, 98 yards and one TD.
This time, the Redskins must travel to Seattle for the contest.
"It's a long trip," Griffin said. "They have great players, but they still have to go out and play the game. We'll come ready."